How To See The Best Of Calgary In 2 Days
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If you’re visiting Banff National Park, it is very likely that you will fly into Calgary first. Calgary is the gateway to the Canadian Rockies and offers plenty of fun things to do for young adults, which also makes it a perfect stop as part of your Southern Alberta road trip! Before embarking on your road trip to Banff, why not stop by the city for a day or two? We partnered with Expedia.ca to bring you the essential 2-day guide of the best Calgary hotels, trendiest restaurants, and top sights to see. Happy travels!
Your Calgary 2-Day Itinerary
1. How to Get to Downtown Calgary From the Airport
2. Getting Around Calgary
3. Day One in Calgary
4. Day Two in Calgary
5. Where to Stay in Calgary
How to Get to Downtown Calgary From the Airport
Once you are at Calgary International Airport, there are a few transportation options to get to downtown Calgary.
The city is very spread out so we strongly recommend renting a car, especially if you’re planning to do quite a bit of exploring.
As a car-centric city, the roads are easy to navigate. From the airport, take Alberta Highway 2 (AB-2) towards the south, then merge onto Memorial Drive. In 20 minutes, you will be in downtown Calgary.
Several companies provide car rental service at the airport, including National, Alamo, Avis, Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis. Their counters are located on the departures level across from the Domestic Terminal.
You can also use a car-sharing service. If you have a car2go membership from other cities in North America, you can use the car2go app to reserve a car. Special rates apply.
By Uber or Taxi
Don’t feel comfortable driving? Request an Uber!
It is a convenient and easy way to get you into the city. The estimated rate to downtown core ranges from CAD$25-$31.
Remember: your driver will pick you up at the departures level. When requesting your ride, you will have the option to choose either door 1 or door 12.
Taxis are also available (on the arrivals level) but are more expensive. Typically, a ride to downtown Calgary costs around CAD$40-$45.
By Hotel Shuttle
Some hotels offer courtesy shuttle service to and from the airport to their guests. Check with your hotel beforehand if they offer such service and arrange your ride.
Otherwise, an on-demand shuttle service is available for booking (CAD$15 one way, from the airport). The shuttle runs regularly between the airport and downtown Calgary, and make stops at many downtown hotels.
If you’d rather take public transport, hop onto Route 300. The express bus services to downtown and operates every day from 5 am to midnight.
You can catch one every 30 mins at Bay 7 or Bay 32 on the arrivals level. The ticket is priced at CAD$10.50 and can be purchased at the ticket vending machine located at Bay 7 or Bay 32.
With the ticket, you will have all-day access to buses and CTrains (more on this later).
Even though this is the cheapest option, it takes about 90 mins to get to downtown.
Getting Around Calgary
Renting a car or using a car sharing service? Navigating your way around Calgary is easy.
The city is divided into 4 quadrants: Southeast (SE), Southwest (SW), Northeast (NE), Northwest (NW). Streets run north-south, while avenues run east-west. They are numbered and neatly laid out in a grid, especially in the downtown core. With this street network, it is extremely easy to get around the city!
Remember: The standard speed limit is 50 km/h. School and playground zones have a special speed limit of 30 km/h from 7:30 am to 9 pm year-round.
By CTrain and Bus
You can also discover Calgary via public transit. Calgary’s transit system consists of buses and the Light Rail Transit (aka LRT or CTrain).
There are 2 CTrain lines: The Red Line runs from the northwest to the south, and the Blue Line starts in the northwest and travels to the west.
Transit tickets are CAD$3.30 per adult. Each ticket is valid for 90 minutes and entitles you to transfer to other buses or CTrain. You can purchase the tickets from the ticket vending machine located at each CTrain station. Day Passes (CAD$10.5) are also available for purchase.
Although the CTrain operates on the honour system, transit police check passengers at random. Therefore, make sure you keep your ticket as proof of payment!
Note: It is free to ride the CTrain throughout the downtown core, between City Hall and West/Kerby Stations.
If that all seems too complicated to you, ride an Uber!
How to Spend 2 days in Calgary
Day 1 | Travel Back in Time
Morning: Start your day at OEB with a hearty egg breakfast! Using fresh free-run farm eggs, this popular breakfast joint will make any egg-obsessed go crazy! Eggs Benedict, omelette, poached eggs, scrambled eggs; you name it, they’ve got it! And their dishes come in the most inventive and delicious combinations ever! Hands down, the best breakfast in Calgary.
Need caffeine to jumpstart your day? Grab a cup of Joe at Rosso. This Calgary-based roaster & cafe chain is known for their high-quality, delicious coffee they sourced directly from around the world. Among the few locations across the city, my favourite is the one inside Studio Bell.
Spend the rest of your morning exploring Studio Bell. Opened in 2016, this ultra-modern architecture is the newest cultural landmark in Calgary and is dedicated to celebrating Canada’s rich music history. Join a tour, walk through five floors of exhibition space, play instruments, and learn about the story of Canadian music!
Afternoon: Lunch at Bridgette Bar, a casual, stylish restaurant in the Design District. Voted as one of the 100 Best Restaurants in Canada for a Big Night Out on OpenTable, Bridgette Bar is known for its mouthwatering wood-fired cuisine and creative cocktails. It serves a globally inspired menu that is designed to tantalize and impress. Signature dishes include braised rabbit on toast, wagyu beef carpaccio, lamb sausage, and grilled octopus, showcasing the freshest of flavours from farm and sea. Oh, and don’t forget the “garlic bread,” it’s not what you expect!
Head over to Heritage Park Historical Village after lunch. A visit to Canada’s largest living history museum will take you back in time and see what life was like from the 1860s to 1950s. Learn about the history of Western Canada while you immerse yourself in the old-fashioned fun! Hop on the vintage train, make your own old-fashioned ice cream, set sail on a paddlewheel boat, and watch history unfold before your eyes.
Catch the sunset at Calgary Tower. Sitting at 191 m above the downtown core, Calgary Tower gives you a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of the city skyline. On a clear day, you might even see the Rocky Mountains!
Evening: Dinner at The Wednesday Room, a sophisticated 1960’s style lounge on Stephen Avenue. Not only does it have a creative menu of craft cocktails, it offers irresistible shareable plates to match.
Day 2 | Get Outdoors and Be Active
Morning: Treat yourself to a healthy breakfast at Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. Nestled in the Simmons Building in the East Village, the bakery sells delicious artisanal sourdough bread, croissants, and other freshly-baked goods, along with soul-warming Middle-eastern inspired offerings. Everything is made from scratch here.
Complement your breakfast with fresh brew coffee from Phil and Sebastian. They strive to source, roast and serve the best coffee possible. It’s no wonder the locals consider it as one of the best cafes in Calgary!
Have a fun-filled morning at the Skyline Luge! This adventure activity begins with a leisurely chairlift ride up the hill, then cruise down on your own summer luge along the world’s longest luge track! The exhilarating ride will take you through more than 50 twists and turns, covering over 1.8 km. It will give you so much fun and laughter. Once is definitely not enough!
Afternoon: Enjoy a casual lunch at Hayden Block in Kensington. Serving house-smoked, Texas-style BBQ, this barbecue joint mastered the art of crafting delicious meals that fill up your belly. To pair with the meat, they’ve got you covered with an eclectic whiskey collection and delicious whiskey-based cocktails!
If that is too heavy to you, consider Cardinale, our new favourite restaurant in Calgary. This cozy eatery whips up delectable classic Italian fare that will transport you to Italy gastronomically. All their pasta noodles are made fresh each day. The polpette and mezze maniche (egg yolk carbonara) are absolute must-tries.
Join Calgary River Experience on an outdoor adventure in the afternoon. Along with a guide, you will float down the Bow River to get a unique perspective of downtown Calgary. Tours start at 1 pm and last about 2 hours.
Evening: In case you don’t know, Alberta has some of the best cuts of beef in the world. Don’t leave Calgary without having a good steak! Modern Steak is our top pick. It serves the best steak in Calgary by using 100% ranch specific Alberta Beef. While you’re there, make sure you also try out the tartare, which is prepared in 5 different styles!
Cap off your night at The Tea House. This Chinese-themed bar hidden in the basement of Two Penny will surprise you with their innovative cocktail program. On Thursdays, the bar plays host to a live comedy show. Tickets at CAD$10, strongly recommend booking in advance.
If you have extra time in Calgary, we recommend taking a trip to Spray Lakes in Alberta, which is only 50 mins away. It is the perfect place to connect to nature!
Where to Stay in Calgary
If you want to be close to the city’s best restaurants and shopping, then we would suggest staying in one of the Calgary downtown hotels.
Conveniently located in the downtown core, Fairmont Palliser is a popular choice for luxury travelers. Housed in a historic building, the property exudes an old world charm. Kensington Riverside Inn is another great option. As a Relais & Chateaux property, the 19-room boutique hotel promises to lavish the guests with personalized service and great attention to detail.
If you prefer to stay closer to the airport, we recommend Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel over all the other Calgary airport hotels. Not only does it delight guests with all the modern amenities, the luxury hotel brings exceptional local fare and beverages to its guests so that they can experience Calgary right there. Plus, their rooms look out to the beautiful Calgary skyline!
This 2-day itinerary highlights the best of Calgary, incorporating a mix of outdoor activities, iconic attractions, and the best restaurants in the city. We hope this post inspires you to visit Calgary!
My daughter and her family live in Calgary so I have been there countless times. But I have not seen the newest attraction Studio Bell.
These are some good suggestions. I also think Model Milk is a great resto for visitors to try and you can’t come to the city without exploring Prince’s Island Park and River Cafe. Oh, Hotel Arts has the best pool scene in the city.
This is such a great area of Canada. There’s so much to do and see. I definitely want to go back and visit Studio Bell. It looks fascinating!
Your first comment about renting a car just brings up my pet peeve about Canada (my home). Whenever we travel to Europe, we would not even think about using a car. Public transportation is so good. And then we come home! Thanks for the coffee shop recommendation. Always something we build a list for before we visit any city. Going high to the Calgary Tower is a great tip. Love to get a panoramic view of a new city. We missed the Luge on our last visit but not next time. This looks like so much fun.
The food at Bridgette Bar looks and sounds epic, I am drooling at the thought of wagyu beef carpaccio!! I love great views so I’d definitely head to the Calgary Tower for sunset, the best time of day!
Great post!! My friends from Calgary would always tell me how awesome their steaks are all the time! The view from the Calgary Tower is epic!
The Sky Luge looks like a lot of fun and the garlic bread looks devine. We’ll have to visit Calgary sometime and check it all out. Of course, Banff calls us too so there’s that.
Great guide! I had some friends living in Calgary a few years back and now I’m kicking myself for not going to visit them! Studio Bell looks phenomenal! Reminds me a bit of the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
This is such a detailed itinerary for seeing the best of Calgary. I love the fact that you have given information and options right from landing at the Airport to the sights and experiences and food choices. Though Calgary seems to offer an unending range of experiences. We were riveted by the Studio Bell and the Historical Park Heritage Village. Both places sound fascinating.
I visited Banff National Park a couple years ago from Vancouver then a road trip to the Rockies. But next time I’d love to fly to Calgary before exploring other area. Besides the Heritage Park Historical Village, I would visit Calgary to have a hearty egg breakfast at OEB. Yep, I do sometime travel for food, haha! Other than that, since I’m a Carbonara kind of girl…I would definitely get myself a portion of polpette and mezze maniche. Thanks for sharing this article, I’ve bookmarked it for my next visit to Canada 😀
Very helpful good suggestions to make the visit to Calgary memorable and worthwhile.
The itinerary break up is really useful it helps to follow same patterns when in a new place. 🙂
Calgary looks so beautiful, your article makes me want to visit that spot right now.
So many great tips, it is very good to hear that Uber also exists there, since I love to take Uber ride whenever I am abroad.
The ranch specific Alberta Beef in the Modern Steak sounds actually really amazing, I love a good steak.
This is a great post for me, as I know nothing about Calgary. It looks like a lovely city to visit however, especially with all the food and coffee places you mentioned. I also appreciate the transportation options for getting around the city. I always have Uber on my phone so it’s very handy for me.
The city looks nice and friendly. I would like to do the Skyline Luge. It looks fun! Then I won’t miss the Heritage Park Historical Village, because we like to learn the history of the area we visited. But, when you said Calgary is a car-centric city, does it mean the people of Calgary prefer cars than public transportations?
I adore exploring Calgary, amazing food and awesome activities. I have not tried the Calgary River Experience, but that sounds like a relaxing way to float and sightsee on the river! Canadian summers are simply magical! I cannot wait to go back.
Calgary seems to have plenty to do and see. It first came on my travel radar when a friend mentioned about the Calgary Stampede (cowboy-style entertainment etc.) held annually. Calgary’s proximity to the Rocky Mountains is another compelling draw. And now after reading your post, I realize that it has, even more, to offer to visitors. The city seems to be calling out to me 🙂
this is a perfect write up- such good ideas to include directions and the how-to! def pinning this for later- Im a Detroit girl so I would HAVE to represent with my red wings tops while in FLAMES territory but it looks beautiful! I’ve only seen the mountains from overhead so it’d be neat to see in real life!
Wow another great city to add to my bucket list. The details you have provided will help any traveller. From hotel to travel all covered so well. Would love to go up the tower and great views of the city. Thanks for sharing and visuals compliments the post. Very informative
I’ve only spent time in Eastern Canada, so Calgary is definitely on my list. I’m really into history, so I think I’d really enjoy the Heritage Park Historical Village. And of course, the food looks amazing too. Can’t wait to visit. Thanks for such a thorough post!
I was just discussing going to Banff next winter and that we should stop in Calgary too so this post is awesome! Looks like Calgary has quite a big foodie culture! And we would love to do the luge! We did the one in Queenstown, New Zealand and had so much fun:)
I’ve visited Calgary on my way to hike in Banff and Jasper but didnt see the metal face structure! so cool
I am totally “egg-obsessed” and LOVE breakfast any time of night or day, so OEB would *definitely* be at the top of my list of places to eat in Calgary. I haven’t spent much time in Canada outside of Toronto and Vancouver, so it would be fun to see it all from the Calgary Tower.
Wow there’s tons to do. I’d be going up that tower for sure as I love that kind of thing. It always gives such a great perspective. Your food photos are making my mouth water
Great post, it has everything we need to know to help plan our upcoming trip to Calgary, we are visiting family in Canada but will be solo in some places like Calgary. Thanks for sharing information about public transport and things to do.
I never been to this place, and it I am delighted to pay a visit in the future. You shared us many things to do and how wonderful this city. Lovely story and photographs!
Oh how funny, I was just talking about Banff National Park with someone. I absolutely want to visit there someday and it seems like Calgary would be a natural place to start from. We have been planning to visit Canada for few years now. Looks like a nice city with lots to do.
I never knew of Calgary before reading your post but it really looks worthvisiting in canada. I would love to explore unique architecture of Studio Bell. Catching sunset from Calgary Tower would be great thing to do here.
I think that is important visit the zoo, drink a beer in the 7avenue in a irish pub, really Calgary in general is beautiful, i love this city.
Wow there’s tons to do. I’d be going up that tower for sure as I love that kind of thing. It always gives such a great perspective. Your food photos are making my mouth water
I love this guide Cat! I’ve never given a lot of thought to Calgary but it definitely seems worth a visit. I’m hoping to do a roadtrip to Banff national park next summer with my family. We are contemplating whether to just drive there from Michigan, or fly into Calgary. In either case I hope I get to put this guide to use and spend a few days exploring Calgary!
I have actually spent some time in Calgary before and after a couple of different trips to Banff. Um, I may or may not have been to Banff 4 times in 16 months!! I kind of love it..a little! I had a car for both times we stayed in Calgary and I’ve Ubered too, but never taken the bus. I didn’t visit the Studio Bell though and it looks awesome! The last time I was there was in Sept 2016 so it might not have been open yet or was just so new I didn’t know about it. Calgary is an awesome foodie city but I would love to go back and try Bridgette Bar! We did do sunset at Calgary Tower and it was AMAZING! I do love your city!!
I could fall in love with Calgary. It looks like it has great public transportation and going rafting through town looks awesome. I am not sure about school zones being enforced year round but I could get over that with one visit to Banff. Simply amazing.
Aww, this takes me back to when I saw you in Calgary in June! 🙂 Your rec for Hayden Block was on point — loved their Smokey Old Fashioned cocktail and the delicious brisket. Since my brother is in Calgary for another year, I know we’ll be back and we’ll be sure to try more of the recs on your list!
Awesome post, Cat. I loved Calgary but it’s been too long and now I realize how much has changed. So much to see and do. Bookmarking for later.
It’s a great reminder that when we fly into a destination, on the way to someplace like Banff — it’s such a good thing to schedule a couple of days on one side or the other of a vacation to see that gateway city. Calgary certainly has plenty to offer, and you’ve given us a big list of things to do.
If I ever go to Calgary I hope it will be longer than 2 days, but if I do go, this post gives me a really good start on my visit! The food looks incredible which is one of the most important aspects of travel for me. That would be the biggest problem, narrowing down the restaurants to visit.
I love all the sculptures and art in the city. The food looks incredible, too. I’m sure I would have never thought about a luge track, but never say never, right? 🙂
I’ve not been to this part of Canada but I’ve wanted to visit Banff for so long that I’m sure it will happen in the near future! The luge looks so fun and I definitely would try that! What is in that rice cake thing? That looks so good and maybe something I could actually eat haha
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